Monday, April 23, 2012

Special Needs: Diagnostic Differences between Educational and Medical Diagnosis of Autism

In Part 2 of this Autism Primer, Dr. Wilkinson offers introductory answers to frequently asked questions about identification and educational planning for ASD. Resources are also provided that will guide you to further information. The content is intended to be informational only and does not constitute professional advice. 
Question: What is the difference between DSM-IV-TR and IDEA?
Answer: It is important to recognize that there is a difference between the clinical and the educational definitions of autism. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) are the two primary systems of classification. The DSM-IV is considered the primary authority in the fields of psychiatric and psychological (clinical) diagnoses, while IDEA is the authority with regard to eligibility decisions for special education in our schools. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles all students with special needs to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). According to the IDEA regulations, the definition of autism is as follows:
(c)(1)(i) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in this section.
(ii) A child who manifests the characteristics of ‘‘autism’’ after age 3 could be diagnosed as having ‘‘autism’’ if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.

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